It’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to where to eat in Louisville. Beloved institutions that have withstood the onslaught of new places are still serving up favorites while fresh names pop-up like mushrooms. Luckily we have three meals a day, seven days a week to take advantage of the abundance. Here are a few can’t-misses – old and new – for 2017.
Bonnie & Clyde’s Pizza Parlor
7611 Dixie Highway
Louisville could as easily be called Pizza City as Derby City, and we’ve got our fair share of trendy pizza shops boasting imported ovens and artisanal flours. And it’s good stuff. But sometimes you want an old-school, low-key kind of place where they don’t have a web site or take credit cards, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll see anyone who uses more than one hashtag per Instagram post taking any pictures. If that sounds just about right, it’s time for a trip to Dixie Highway, where this family pizza shop consistently turns out cracker thin crusted pizzas to hungry regulars who know the drill: Order and pay, take a giant playing card, squeeze in at a long, shared table, sip your brew, and wait for your card to be called.
The Fat Lamb
2011 Grinsted Ave.
If you see the guy that’s absolutely beaming back in the open kitchen of this new Highlands eatery, you’ve probably just laid eyes on the owner and chef, Dallas McGarity. Known and loved for his cuisine at Theater Square Marketplace and earlier stints at acclaimed restaurants across town, McGarity struck out on his own in late 2016. Working with his wife Laura, a talented commercial interior designer, on a shoestring budget, they turned his dream of running his own restaurant into reality in a few short, jam-packed weeks of converting the former Fontleroy’s into their own space.
His food is made with love, and you can taste it in every bite. McGarity’s passion for Italian fare meets his southern sensibilities for a menu featuring treats like slow cooked lamb ragu, shrimp and grits with polenta, and rigatoni Bolognese. But don’t let the name fool you. Laura’s a vegetarian, so if meat’s not your thing you’ll be well cared for with housemade spinach and ricotta gnocchi and a pickled beets and shaved carrots salad you can’t get enough of.
The Pearl of Germantown
1151 Goss Ave.
So, this isn’t a restaurant, but since you can have pizza delivered, it makes our list. What happens when you take an old neighborhood watering hole in an up-and-coming neighborhood (Pauly’s Schnitzelburg Pub in Germantown) and re-open it with the talent behind one of the best whiskey bars in town (Larry Rice and team from the Silver Dollar)? You get the kind of place a bar owner like Rice would want to hang out in. Think free jukebox, relaxed vibe, and Sharpies for patrons to take to the walls in back.
As for drinks, well, this is Louisville, after all, so they’ve got your good bourbons. And with people like Susie Hoyt behind the bar, you’re getting a craft cocktail – just minus the craft price tag. We’re talking six bucks for a beautiful Old Fashioned. But it’s still a neighborhood bar, so if an ice cold, cheap beer or $3 shot is more your style, they’ve got that, too. And if you’re hungry for more than the bar snacks on hand (and hey, that ham on white bread is actually shockingly delicious) just call up a local pizza shop like Donisi, and settle in for a night of hanging out with your friends.
2622 Frankfort Ave.
This addition to Frankfort Ave. is pretty much a dream come true for a locavore omnivore. The whole animal butcher shop from the talent behind Blue Dog Bakery & Café sells beautiful cuts of local meat (including a dry aged ground beef already becoming a legend among food circles across town) and goodies ranging from charcuterie and cheese for the ultimate picnic to (naturally) their amazing breads, and for anyone ready to take their roasted potatoes to the next level, tubs of beef tallow and lard.
Don’t feel like cooking? No problem. Grab a ready-to-go lunch in the shop or step next door to their cozy cafe where wonders emerge from the wood-fired oven and intent diners congregate at long tables. Think rotating pizza, sandwiches, and small plates all starring the good stuff coming out of the butcher shop, rounded out with a nice little drinks list and you’ve got one happy place to tuck into dinner Thursday through Saturday nights.
617 W. Oak St.
From under the radar food truck to household name, the Seafood Lady has catapulted onto the scene, winning fans who can’t resist the addictive crab fries and exuberantly seasoned shellfish. Crowds regularly lined up out the garage doors of the tiny shop in Old Louisville owner Nichelle Thurston opened in 2016, happily carrying out heavy, Cajun-scented Styrofoam containers. The unassuming restaurant next to the Oak Street mini mall was a smash hit among neighbors and anyone who’d make the trip to 7th and Oak, and quickly became too small for the thriving business.
Work is underway now for a larger location nearby at 105 W. Oak St., where diners can plow into the piles of seafood in a dining room or on the patio – and the bar will surely be a welcome addition to the food line-up.